Firstly, it’s probably important to explain that I am by no means a seasoned traveller or solo holidaymaker. My travelling experiences to date have largely been in Europe, and most have been with family and friends.
However, the last few years, have seen me pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone, becoming more adventurous, and travelling alone.
Hitting my 30s and discovering that a) the majority of my friends were now tied down in long term relationships, married and/or have children, and b) finding myself dating people who did not have the same desire as me to travel and explore, meant that if I wanted to fulfil my desire to travel, I would have to be prepared to do it alone.
Whilst it may seem like this was an easy conclusion to come to, it couldn’t have been further from the truth. As someone who has always been relatively shy, lacks confidence in certain situations, and suffers with her nerves, making the decision to go on holiday alone was a big deal.
However, I have also reached an age whereby I enjoy pushing myself, testing my limits, and venturing outside of my comfort zone. And I love a challenge.
If like me, you long to travel, but suffer with nerves, shyness or a lack of confidence, do not let this put you off from travelling alone.
As I have discovered over the last few years, there are some simple things you can do to make sure you keep your nerves at bay during your first and future solo adventures.
1. Do your research
As most of the points below will explain, researching your trip is key. Whether it’s finding the right tour operator, the right country, the right town, the right hotel, or even the right time of year to travel, doing some early research could save you from a whole load of worries along the way.
2. Choose your travel operator carefully
By choosing a well known travel company for my first solo trip, I felt I would be in safe hands. I paid over the odds to travel with a company my family had used for years, knowing that I could book my flights, accommodation and transfers with them, and there would be a rep on hand at the resort if I ran into problems.
It was a nice theory…
My rep was split between about 3 or 4 different hotels in the local area and for the first couple of days, she wasn’t around during what I would call ‘normal’ hours. And then she disappeared ‘off sick’ for the remainder of my holiday with no replacement…
A couple of days before I was due to fly home, I visited reception to check my return transfer details. Details of my flight\transfer were nowhere to be seen. With few English speaking people at the hotel reception, and no rep, it took an emergency call home to chat through what to do, a call to the tour operator, and a lot of waiting around whilst the travel operator looked to resolve this. And thankfully they did. But I was left questioning why I had paid so much extra for what I thought would be peace of mind, when in fact, it left my nerves a little on edge. Needless to say, I was grateful to make it back to the airport, as scheduled, and on time for my flight home.
3. Consider the length of time you go for
For my first solo trip, I decided to go for 4 nights rather than 7. In all honesty, I didn’t know whether I would enjoy my time alone, and I didn’t like the thought of a miserable few days if I just simply didn’t enjoy it. I took a late flight on the first day, so practically went straight to bed on arrival. That meant I only really had 3 nights to entertain myself. I was pretty sure that even if I was worried/scared/anxious in this time, at least it wouldn’t be long until I returned home. I needn’t have worried of course. Whilst 4 nights was long enough for my first trip, I loved every second of it.
4. Find the right location for you
There are lots of things to consider here.
Firstly, are you restricted at all by your knowledge of other languages? Although I studied French at school, and have been holidaying in Spain for many years, I only really know the basics of both French and Spanish . Therefore, it made sense to visit somewhere my lack of language skills wouldn’t really matter.
I chose to visit Tenerife for my first solo adventure. I figured my basic Spanish would get me by, but also, made the assumption that many of the hotel/bar/restaurant staff would speak English. What I hadn’t planned for, was that not all of Tenerife is inhabited by English tourists. Some parts (such as the north where I was staying) are still relatively untouched by us Brits. The hotel was mostly Spanish speaking, so even simple things such as booking in at reception were slightly challenging. There were also no other English speaking guests in the hotel, with most guests having travelled from mainland Spain. However, despite the language barriers, I got by, and people were really friendly.
Another thing to consider is the location of your accommodation. By that I mean consider how close you wish to be from the beach, local restaurants, shops etc. For me, it was important to be within walking distance of the beach as well as the town centre. That way, if I felt brave enough to go out and explore, I didn’t have to go far, and didn’t have to worry about taking public transport unless I wanted to.
5. Consider your Board options
If you choose to stay in a hotel, I would highly recommend either choosing all inclusive or half board options for your first adventure. That way, if you don’t feel comfortable leaving your resort to either find a supermarket or a restaurant, you don’t have to. I chose half board for my first solo adventure, as I knew it would give me the freedom to go out and eat locally at lunchtime if I felt like it, or alternatively, I could get a snack at the pool bar, if I didn’t feel like leaving the resort. And there was the comfort of knowing I wouldn’t have to wander the streets on my own in the evening, as I would be dining in the comfort of the hotel.
6. Take plenty of things to keep you occupied
For me, meal times were potentially going to be the most awkward moments. With no-one to talk to at meal times (unless I improved my Spanish quickly), but wanting to ensure they were as enjoyable as possible, I knew I needed to take something with me to make mealtimes an easier experience.
I found myself carrying books around with me wherever I went. Whether I was eating at the hotel restaurant or getting lunch at a local cafe, burying my head in a good book made me feel like I wasn’t really dining alone. Alternatively, taking your smart phone or tablet with you, either to catch up on reading, catching up with friends and family back home, or as I did more recently on my trip to Portugal, I would start drafting, or proof reading scheduled blog posts about my trip.
7. Consider what you want to do whilst your away
I now love dining alone, whether in the UK or abroad. There’s something nice about enjoying a meal without any interruptions, with your head buried in a good book…
The beauty of staying in a holiday resort, is that you don’t have to leave the resort if you don’t want to. For me, knowing this was a bit like a comfort blanket. However, once I arrived, I discovered some hidden confidence and found I didn’t spend much time in the resort at all.
Solo travel can be as adventurous or as unadventurous as you like. For me, solo travel does wonders for my mind and my wellbeing. Even if I end up spending my days sitting by the pool, reading in the warm sunshine, it feels so so good to be away from the daily stresses of city life.
Every time I go away on my own, I find myself getting more adventurous. Earlier this year, I found myself in Portugal, outside of peak tourist season. Although I did some research before I booked the trip, I found myself right by a beach ✅, however, due to the time of year, most of the local restaurants in the village were still closed for the winter, and the nearest town was a good 45 minutes walk away ❌. I still haven’t plucked up enough courage to use public transport on my own, however, during the daytime I found myself walking the 45 minutes into town, as well as beach hopping for miles on end. I also made more use of the hotels facilities, by treating myself to a spa day, using the gym, and spending time relaxing by the pool.
Later this year, I’m pushing myself out of my comfort zone again, as I embark on my biggest adventure yet. This Christmas, I’ll be travelling around India. Although my time in India will be spent with a group of likeminded people, I won’t know any of them when I first get there, and my travel to and from India will be alone…
Although everyone’s travel experiences are different, I hope this goes some way to putting your mind at rest about travelling alone. For me, it’s been one of the bravest, but best decisions I have ever made. Each time I go away, I come back a slightly better, improved version of myself.
Here’s to more solo adventures ✈️
The Mindful Gingernut x